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4 Feb, 2021 08:50

South Korean PM vows to revamp Covid-19 social distancing rules to address public discontent

South Korean PM vows to revamp Covid-19 social distancing rules to address public discontent

South Korea’s PM Chung Sye-kyun has ordered a revamp of the country’s social distancing guidelines. The enduring restrictions have faced mounting criticism, especially from business owners suffering losses.

On Thursday, during an interagency meeting on Covid-19, the PM floated the idea of reviewing the coronavirus rules.

“Rather than introduce the guidelines unilaterally, we should make the virus prevention rules along with the public,” he stated, citing a recent survey that showed South Korean citizens were polarized on whether the existing restrictions were fair.

It was not immediately clear exactly how – and to what extent – the public would be involved in the revision process.

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South Korea first adopted a three-tier social distancing scheme last June. The system evolved into a more flexible five-tier scheme in November, allowing the authorities to introduce region-specific restrictions.

Over the weekend, the government extended the restrictive measures for another two weeks, ahead of the Lunar New Year. The holiday, which this year falls on February 11, usually sees millions of South Koreans traveling across the country to visit their relatives and friends. The greater Seoul area will remain under the second-highest Level 2.5 restrictions, and other regions under Level 2 restrictions.

The Level 2.5 rules have remained in place across greater Seoul since early December. The measures involve the closure or severe limitation of the operation of restaurants, cafés, gyms, other small businesses, and public venues. While the restrictions have fueled discontent among small-business owners, the government has so far avoided introducing the highest level of lockdown, which would impose a blanket ban on the operation of all businesses.

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South Korea has fared relatively well during the pandemic, registering only around 80,000 cases so far – a fraction of its population of nearly 52 million. The country’s death toll remains quite low compared to the worst-affected nations, hovering below the 1,500 mark.

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